<!-- May 24, 2003 -->
You can have a good day, even when it's raining and you have the flu.
I woke up sick, even after 10+ hours of sleep. Was grumpy about filthy kitchen. Ate yummy muesli breaky.
Alex called to thank me for his birthday present. I was happy that he appreciated it so much.
I took off, stopping in at Gloria Jeans for my long black with milk and then at Toni & Guy to see about their $15 student haircut special. I may do it. It's just hair, afterall. It can't get any worse, at least.
Was just finished checking out the price of hair colour when Jen called. I walked through The Domain park and then up to the concrete park beside Hyde Park and the Australian Museum, called Philip Park.
There, I stumbled on a very odd performance piece. Six people with two diferent shoes on: one boot, one fancy heeled sandal (and that's just the men!) carrying 8-foot long plastic orange poles and wearing white or metallic grey hairdresser robes, it seemed. They performed odd choreographed steps - not dancing exactly. Shaking or flailing their poles. Stepping grandly, rolling about, crouching down, making faces at each other.
I took some photos as the skateboarders that normally hang out there pretty much ignored the performance altogether.
Lovely chat with Jen, though. Odd moment unfolding before me, though.
Walked to the Art Gallery of NSW for the toilets (as usual) and stopped to look at a few items, promising myself to return Wednesday night (for Art After Hours).
Continued my walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens, all the way to the Opera House at Circular Quay. On my way, I overheard some Americans talking about "Bowling for Columbine" and complaining that the director should just move if he doesn't like it. And that, although they've "travelled everywhere", there's no place they'd rather live than America. I nearly choked.
"I could live here," said the guy with the frosted tip hair, earring and baggy jeans. "But I'd have to import burritos."
From the Opera House, I walked to the Rocks Visitor Centre (which is excellent), and picked up the self-guided walking tour booklet for $1. The Rocks is the location of Sydney's first settlement.
While following the tour, I stopped for an ice-cream sundae because I was quite hungry. Imagine how disappointed I was when it was, well, BAD. I don't know HOW you can make a chocolate sundae taste bad, but they managed it. I ate it under the Harbour Bridge as it started to drizzle.
Then I stumbled on The Rocks Markets and stopped to look through a few of the kiosks. Much of it was the same as could be found at the Paddington Market, which is to say that it was quite good.
By the time I continued on, it was really raining and I hadn't brought my umbrella. So I ducked into the Argyle Shops... the oldest stores in Australia. I looked around at the antique designer shop that had some very well preserved designer clothes, jewelery and undergarments for exorbitant prices. The walls were all old stone and it felt like a cavern.
Walked through the rain to the Visitor's Centre where I got a few more pamphlets before the Centre closed. I was too late for the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Parks and Recreation Centre was also closed.
Brain-wave: the Aquarium is open until 10pm. So I caught the ferry from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour for $4.30. It would hardly seem worth it, except that it reaffirmed for me that Sydney is vastly more beautiful at night. The bridge, the Opera House, the lights.
Thankfully, the ferry has a covered back area. It was raining, of course, but I was making the most of my day.
7pm - Aquarium - Platypus tank
The platypus does look remarkably like my old teddy duck. Except only half as fat and a quarter as fluffy.
I watch with fascination for upwards of 20 minutes as he alternates between resting on his rock, half submerged, intermittently exposing his belly and trying to scratch it with his webbed feet, and diving, madly flapping his feet to waddle himself down so he can wag his beak like a puppy's tail through the sandy bottom.
The turtles, in marked contrast, slowly glide through the water without much fanfare or movement, frankly. Just a deft paw of the water and they're off. Oblivious to the mad spastic movements of their friendly "monotreme" (a unique order of mammals including platypus and anteaters). I learn that the platypus are actually more dangerous than they appear. Males have venomous hind claws. Watch out for teddy duck! But they're unlikely to see you anyway. Especially if you're directly ahead of them. Their eyes are on top of their head so they can see and avoid overhead dangers but often run into things head-on, on land. In the water, their eyes, ears and nostrils close and they hunt solely guided by receptors in their bill which sense touch and electrical impulses generated by muscle activity.
7:30pm - Crocodile pond
The crocodile has eyes - great, yellow yes with black slits - that follow you. He's staring at me. And every once in a while, his eyelid slides shut, like a camera shutter, and opens again, fixing on me. Earlier, when I walked up quietly and stood still, I saw his quick, shallow breathing. Now he's not moving at all. I suspect he's stalking me.
Time to move on.
Ever since I was a young girl reading Archie comics in the dentists' waiting room, I remember wanting so badly to have/see a seahorse. Well, today, my dream has come true. The aquarium has many White's Seahorses. They abound in Sydney Harbour.
I'm suprised by them. They're impossible creatures; clinging to sea vegetation just to anchor themselves as they're not strong enough to do so on their own. Silly tiny flapping ear wings help them glide to the next piece of vegetation that their tail can wrap around. To be honest, they look like fake mechanical creations. Some are as big as my index finger, the older ones are dark brown and as long as my hand with their tails unfurled. Ungainly is the word that comes to mind.
Equalled and surpassed only by the Weedy Seadragon. Same basic shape as a seahorse, with the same ridiculous long snout. Rainbow coloured and as long as my forearm.
8:30pm - Shark tunnel
Directly overhead lie five small white tip reef sharks. Their soft mottled underbellies exposed to me as I gingerly step under them, looking up through the glass. Their gills move rhythmically. A stingray silently flaps by. I'm examining their teeth when a great shadow passes over... another shark, a nurse shark? Maybe four or five metres long. A smaller fish catching a ride on its back. The shark twitches, trying to dislodge it, much as a cow would a fly. Another passes within inches of my nose, pressed close to the glass tunnel as my nerves strenthen.
9pm - Great Barrier Reef
In the Great Barrier Reef, the fish dance to the classical music, green light filtering down. The menacing ray shark drifts amid the angelfish and moorish idols (my favourite) and the darting flashes of electric blue, orange and yellow. The lion fish ruffles its long fins along its back and sides, looking ferocious and ridiculous at once. It is a ballet as they dip and play, glide and meander among the magical lights and coral.
It stikes me that the same fish like to swim back and forth in the same area, even though nothing prevents them from moving. I had wondered if they'd get bored of being cooped up in the same tank, day in, day out. But that's what sets humans apart: memory. A fish forgets that blue starfish as soon as it has passed out of its line of vision.
Just like the story I once read about the man with no short term memory. Sometimes I wonder if it might be nicer (easier) to encounter the world with fresh, innocent eyes every time.
One would never become immune to the everyday beauty that surrounds us. One might never take it for granted then. Nor would you ever be able to compare it to anything else you've seen and deem it inferior. Everything would be the most wondrous site you believe you've ever seen. How beautifully innocent and intensely impressionable you would be. How awesomely vibrant and breathtaking and endlessly miraculous the world would seem. Mm. Yes. Just as it IS.
my runny nose and fever
14 degrees, Cloudy with showers
In a Sunburned Country